Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Muhlenberg, Henry Melchior
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Muhlenberg, Henry Melchior
MUHLENBERG, Henry Melchior, clergyman, b. in Eimbeck, Hanover, Germany, 6 Sept., 1711; d. in Trappe, Montgomery co., Pa., 7 Oct., 1787. His parents were Nicholaus Melchior and Anna Maria Muhlenberg. His father was a member of the council of Eimbeck, and his mother was the daughter of a retired officer. In early life he attended school in his native place, but his father died when Henry was twelve years old, and his studies were interrupted for some time. At the age of twenty-one he was enabled to resume them in private, and in 1735 he entered the University of Göttingen, which had been established in that year. Here he became identified with the orthodox pietism of Spener and Francke. In 1736 he united with several students of theology in giving instruction to poor and neglected children, from which resulted in a very short time the establishment of an institution for such children, which is still in existence. In 1737 he began his theological course at Göttingen, and in 1738 he went to Halle to finish his course, where he was also at the same time employed as a teacher in Francke's orphan home. In 1739, after his ordination, he was called to the office of deacon or assistant in the church at Gross-Hennersdorf, in Upper Lusatia, and inspector of the orphan house at that place. He labored here with much success until 1741, when he accepted a call in the name of several congregations of German Lutherans in Pennsylvania to go there as a missionary. Three imperfectly organized Lutheran congregations in Pennsylvania, located respectively at New Hanover, New Providence (now Trappe), and Philadelphia, had already, in 1733, sent three delegates to England, Holland, and Germany to solicit gifts for the erection of churches and school-houses, and to ask for a pastor for themselves and other Lutherans scattered throughout the provinces in the New World. The delegates were kindly received, money was collected, and now the first missionary was called, 6 Sept., 1741. In the beginning of the following year Muhlenberg began the journey to his new field of labor; he spent some time in London, and on 13 June, 1742, embarked on a packet that was going to Georgia with provisions for Gen. Oglethorpe's colony. During the voyage he took much interest in the spiritual welfare of passengers and sailors, and preached to them in the English language. He arrived at Charleston, S. C., on 22 Sept., 1742, and on 25 Nov. he reached Philadelphia and entered at once upon his work. He labored with great zeal and under many difficulties among the three congregations that had called him, but soon extended his labors to other places in Pennsylvania and the adjacent provinces. In the early part of the 18th century German Lutherans had settled in various parts of the New World, and these he carefully sought out, ministered to their spiritual wants, and organized congregations among them. As his field of labor enlarged he petitioned his patrons in Germany for one or more pastors. In 1745 Rev. Peter Brunnholtz and two theological students arrived in Pennsylvania. Mr. Brunnholtz was placed in Philadelphia and the students at New Hanover and Philadelphia as teachers and assistants. Later others were sent over from Halle in order to take up the work where Muhlenberg had made a beginning, and previous to the Revolutionary war there were already a respectable number of co-laborers sent out from Halle. Muhlenberg was married, 23 April, 1745, to a daughter of J. Conrad Weiser, of Tulpehoken, the well-known Indian interpreter. After the arrival of Brunnholtz at Philadelphia, Muhlenberg resided at Trappe. With the arrival of more laborers the field, of which he had the oversight, extended itself more from year to year, so that about the middle of the 18th century it extended from Georgia, through the Carolinas, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, to New York city and the shores of the upper Hudson. In 1748 Muhlenberg and his co-laborers organized the first Lutheran synod on the basis of the Lutheran confessions. This synod stood in very friendly relations with the Swedish Lutheran ministers, whose settlement along the Delaware dated from 1638. Muhlenberg was eminently qualified for his task. He could use four or five languages, and could endure any amount of work. During the summers of 1751 and 1752 he labored among the Dutch and Germans in New York city, and he repeated his visit in 1759 and 1760, serving congregations in New York and New Jersey. He held frequent intercourse with the Swedish ministers, delivered addresses in Latin, and occasionally preached in the English language. The first church in Philadelphia was dedicated in 1748. Later, in 1762, he reorganized the congregation under a new constitution, which has become the model for most subsequent congregations. Some part of the years 1774-'5 Muhlenberg spent in Georgia in order to re-establish peace and order among the pastors and people there, and he succeeded in giving them a new constitution and a better form of government. During the Revolutionary war he endured many trials, owing to the fact that he and his family cast their lot with the Americans. In 1776 he removed to his home at Trappe, where he resided during the remainder of his life, continuing to preach as circumstances demanded and his failing health permitted, and assisting the pastors and congregations with his counsel and advice. He carried on an extensive correspondence both with his brethren in this country and with his patrons at Halle and elsewhere in Germany. The result of his vast foreign correspondence is given in the “Halle'sche Nachrichten,” published from time to time at Halle, beginning with the year 1744, and later collected in one large volume (Halle, 1787). In 1784 the University of Pennsylvania conferred on him the degree of D. D. Dr. Muhlenberg accepted the symbolical books of the Lutheran church, and on this basis organized congregations and synods, though the rigor of his doctrinal position was modified by the orthodox pietism of Halle. On 7 Oct., 1887, the centennial of his death, exercises were held at his grave in Trappe, Pa. See “Biographical Sketch of H. M. Muhlenberg,” by J. G. Christian Helmuth, added to a eulogy pronounced at his funeral (Philadelphia, 1788); “Memoir of the Life and Times of H. M. Muhlenberg, D. D.,” by Martin L. Stoever, D. D. (1856); “Early History of the Lutheran Church in America,” by Charles W. Schaeffer, D. D. (1857); “Autobiography of H. M. Muhlenberg, D. D., up to the Year 1743,” found in his own handwriting in the archives at Halle, by William Germann, D. D. (Allentown, Pa., 1881); “Halle'sche Nachrichten,” new ed., with annotations (Allentown, Pa., and Halle, Germany, 1886); and “Life and Times of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg,” by William J. Mann, D. D. (Philadelphia, 1887). Dr. Muhlenberg was the father of eleven children. — His son,
John Peter Gabriel, patriot, b. in Trappe, Pa., 1 Oct., 1746; d. near Philadelphia, Pa., 1 Oct., 1807, was sent when he was sixteen years of age, with his two brothers, to be educated in Germany. While at Halle he enlisted in a regiment of dragoons, but was released through the intervention of friends, returned to this country in 1766, studied theology, and was for a time pastor of Lutheran churches in New Germantown and Bedminster, N. J. In 1772 he removed to Woodstock, Va., where many Germans from the middle states had settled. In order that he might enforce the payment of tithes, it was necessary that he should receive Episcopal ordination, and to secure this he went to England, where he was ordained priest. He continued to labor in Virginia until 1775, when his ardent patriotism and military spirit induced him, at the solicitation of Gen. Washington, with whom he was acquainted, to accept a colonel's commission. After he had received his appointment he took leave of his congregation in a sermon in which, after eloquently depicting the wrongs this country had suffered from Great Britain, he exclaimed: “There is a time for all things — a time to preach and a time to pray; but there is also a time to fight, and that time has now come.” Then, pronouncing the benediction, he threw off his gown, displaying a full military uniform. Proceeding to the door of the church, he ordered the drums to beat for recruits, and nearly 300 of his congregation responded to the appeal. To a relative, who subsequently complained that he had abandoned the church for the army, he said: “I am a clergyman, it is true, but I am a member of society as well as the poorest layman, and my liberty is as dear to me as to any man. Shall I then sit still and enjoy myself at home when the best blood of the continent is spilling? . . . . Do you think if America should be conquered I should be safe? Far from it. And would you not sooner fight like a man than die like a dog?” Muhlenberg at once marched with his men to the relief of Charleston, S. C., and his “German regiment,” the 8th Virginia, gained a reputation for discipline and bravery. He was present at the battle of Sullivan's Island, and, after taking part in the southern campaigns, was promoted brigadier-general in 1777. After being engaged at the Brandy wine, Germantown, Monmouth, Stony Point, and Yorktown, where he commanded the 1st brigade of light infantry, he was made major-general at the close of the war, before the army was disbanded. He had been in 1774 chairman of the committee of safety of his county, a member of the house of burgesses, and in 1776 he was a delegate to the State convention. On returning to civil pursuits he was at once elected a member of the Pennsylvania council, was in 1785 chosen vice-president of that state, with Benjamin Franklin as president, and served as presidential elector in 1797. He was elected a member of the 1st congress, and re-elected to the 2d and 3d, serving from 4 March, 1789, till 3 March, 1795. He was again elected afterward, and served from 2 Dec., 1799, till 3 March, 1801, in which year he was chosen to the U. S. senate as a Democrat, but resigned before congress met, having been appointed by President Jefferson supervisor of the revenue for the district of Pennsylvania. In 1803 he was made collector of the port of Philadelphia. A statue of Gen. Muhlenberg, by Blanche Nevin, has been placed in the capitol at Washington, D. C. See “Life of Major-General Peter Muhlenberg,” by his great-nephew, Henry A. Muhlenberg (Philadelphia, 1849). — Another son, Frederick Augustus Conrad, b. in Trappe, Pa., 1 Jan., 1750; d. 4 June, 1801, was also educated at Halle, Germany. On 22 Sept., 1770, he and his brother, Henry Ernest, returned from Germany. He was ordained to the ministry on 25 Oct., and became his father's assistant. In 1773-'6 he was pastor of Christ German Lutheran congregation in New York city, where he was very successful and highly esteemed, but, on account of his sympathies with the patriots during the Revolution, he was compelled to leave New York, and resided for a time with his father at Trappe. In 1777 he moved with his family to New Hanover to take pastoral charge of that part of his father's field of labor, and soon afterward of the congregations at Oley and New Goshenhoppen. He was well known to the British as a supporter of the American cause, and on that account suffered a great deal, but his friends exerted themselves in his behalf. The necessity was felt at this time that the Germans should have a representative in congress, and, as he seemed to be peculiarly qualified for this post, he was elected, 2 March, 1779. In August of the same year he laid aside his pastoral office and entered on a political career, in which he was eminently successful. Until the end of his life he was called on various occasions to the highest posts of honor and responsibility, being a member of the Continental congress, twice speaker of the Pennsylvania legislature, and twice speaker of the U. S. house of representatives. — Another son, Gotthilf Henry Ernest, b. in Trappe, Pa., 17 Nov., 1753; d. in Lancaster, Pa., 23 May, 1815, was educated at Halle, Germany, with his brothers, and returned to his native country in 1770. In October of the same year, though not quite seventeen years of age, he was ordained to the ministry of the Lutheran church, and for several years he was his father's assistant in Philadelphia. From January till April, 1772, he labored among the Lutherans in New Jersey, and he then returned to Philadelphia. In 1773 he accepted a formal call from the New Jersey congregations and labored successfully among them for a year, when he was recalled to Philadelphia as third pastor in the large congregation in that city, and served in that capacity until April, 1779. In the latter year he accepted a call from the congregation at Lancaster, which he served until his death. Though conscientious in the performance of his pastoral duties, he devoted his leisure hours to the study of the natural sciences, especially botany, in which he excelled, being acknowledged by scientists in America and Europe as maintaining the highest rank. Various plants, discovered and classified by him, were named in his honor. He corresponded with the highest authorities in this and other sciences, and was visited, among others, by Alexander von Humboldt and Aime Bonpland. He was a member of the American philosophical society, of the philosophical and physical societies of Göttingen and Berlin, and other scientific societies in Germany, Sweden, and other countries. His works are regarded as standards by scientists. Among his publications are “Catalogus Plantarum Americæ Septentrionalis” (Lancaster, 1813); “Reduction of all the Genera of Plants contained in the ‘Catalogus Plantarum’ of Muhlenberg to the Natural Families of De Jussieu's System” (Philadelphia, 1815); and “Descriptio uberior Granimum et Plantarum Calamariarum Americæa Septentrionalis Indignarum et Circurum” (1817). See “Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst Muhlenberg als Botaniker,” by Prof. John M. Maisch (New York, 1886). — Gotthilf's son, Henry Augustus, clergyman, b. in Lancaster, Pa., 13 May, 1782; d. in Reading, Pa., 12 Aug., 1844, was educated chiefly by his father, studied theology, and was ordained pastor of Trinity Lutheran church, Reading, Pa., in 1802. Here he remained until 1828, when he was compelled to give up his charge on account of impaired health, and retired to a farm. He then entered public life and was elected and four times re-elected to congress as a Democrat, serving from 7 Dec., 1829, till 9 Feb., 1838, when he resigned. In 1835 he was the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for governor of Pennsylvania. He declined the secretaryship of the navy and the mission to St Petersburg, which were offered him by President Van Buren, but was made minister to Austria, and held the office from 8 Feb., 1838, till 18 Sept., 1840. In 1844 he was again nominated as the Democratic candidate for governor of his native state, but died before the election took place. — John Peter Gabriel's son, Francis Samuel, lawyer, b. in Philadelphia, Pa., 22 April, 1795; d. in Pickaway county, Ohio, in 1832, received an academical education, studied law, and was admitted to the bar. After serving as the private secretary of Gov. Joseph Hiester, of Pennsylvania, in 1820-'3, he removed to Pickaway county, Ohio, where he was chosen a member of the legislature. He was subsequently elected to congress to fill out an unexpired term, and served from 19 Dec., 1828, till 3 March, 1829. — Frederick Augustus Conrad's grandson,
William Augustus, clergyman, b. in Philadelphia, Pa., 16 Sept., 1796; d. in New York city, 8 April, 1877, was the son of Henry William Muhlenberg. He was graduated at the University of Pennsylvania in 1814, studied theology under Bishop White, was made deacon, 18 Sept., 1817, and became assistant in Christ church, Philadelphia, of which the bishop was rector. He was ordained presbyter, 22 Oct., 1820, and soon afterward accepted a call to take charge of St. James's church, Lancaster, Pa., where he remained six years. Here he was instrumental in establishing the first public school in the state out of Philadelphia. He also founded, in 1828, a school at Flushing. L. I., which was merged in 1838 in St. Paul's college, in the vicinity, and for nearly twenty years was its principal. In 1846 he became rector of the Church of the Holy Communion, New York city, which had been erected by his sister, and was the earliest free Protestant Episcopal church. Not long afterward he began his efforts to secure the founding of St. Luke's hospital, at Fifth avenue and 54th street, which was opened in 1859, Dr. Muhlenberg becoming its first pastor and superintendent, which office he held until his death. In 1852 he organized the first Protestant sisterhood in the United States, and the ladies of this association afterward took charge of St. Luke's hospital. He also, in 1866, made an effective beginning toward establishing an industrial Christian settlement at St. Johnland, L. I., about forty-five miles from New York. He received the degree of S. T. D. from Columbia in 1834. Dr. Muhlenberg was largely concerned in extending and improving the hymnology of his denomination, serving on a committee appointed for that purpose, besides writing such general favorites as “I would not live alway,” “Like Noah's weary dove,” “Saviour, who thy flock art feeding,” and “Shout the glad tidings.” He also originated the “Memorial” movement in the Protestant Episcopal church, and wrote much on evangelical union, of which he was a strenuous advocate. His career was one of busy benevolence, the necessities of his four great undertakings — school, church, hospital, and industrial settlement — entirely absorbing his energies. He had great personal magnetism and much kindliness of manner, which especially fitted him for the educational work that occupied so large a part of his life, and for his intercourse with the poor. Besides many tracts, essays, and occasional poems and sermons, he published “Church Poetry, being Portions of the Psalms in Verse, and Hymns suited to the Festivals and Fasts, from Various Authors” (New York, 1823); “Christian Education” (1831); “Music of the Church,” in conjunction with Wainwright, and “The People's Psalter” (1847); “Letters on Protestant Sisterhoods” (1853): “Family Prayers” (1861); “St. Johnland: Ideal and Actual” (1867); “Christ and the Bible” (1869); “The Woman and her Accusers,” a sermon (1870); “ ‘I Would not Live Alway,’ with the Story of the Hymn” (1871); and “Evangelical Catholic Papers, Addresses, Lectures, and Sermons” (2 vols., 1875-'7). See “The Life and Work of William Augustus Muhlenberg,” by Anne Ayres (New York, 1880). — Gotthilf's grandson, Frederick Augustus, educator, son of Frederick A. Muhlenberg, M. D., b. in Lancaster, Pa., 25 Aug., 1818, was graduated at Jefferson college in 1836, and at Princeton theological seminary in 1838. He was licensed in 1854 by the Lutheran ministerium of Pennsylvania and ordained in 1855. In 1867 Pennsylvania college. Gettysburg, Pa., conferred on him the degree of D. D., and in 1887 he received that of LL. D. from Muhlenberg college, Allentown, Pa., and Franklin and Marshall college. He has been professor in Franklin college from 1838 till 1850, of Greek in Pennsylvania college from 1850 till 1867, first president of Muhlenberg college, Pa., from 1867 till 1876, and professor of the Greek language and literature in the University of Pennsylvania since 1876. As a Greek scholar and instructor, Prof. Muhlenberg takes a deservedly high rank. He is a frequent contributor to the periodicals of his church, having translated various articles from the German for the Gettysburg “Evangelical Review,” and written many valuable papers for the “Lutheran” and “Lutheran Church Review,” Philadelphia. He has published his “Inaugural Address” as president of Muhlenberg college (Allentown, Pa., 1867); “Semi-Centennial Address” at Pennsylvania college (Gettysburg, Pa., 1882); and other addresses.